What Can You Do With An Anthropology Degree?

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Anthropology is commonly known as the study of humanity. It utilizes the main sciences—biological, physical, and social—and various humanities in order to generate an understanding of former and present societies and human interactions with one another and their environment. It focuses on everything from the evolution of human societies to human ecology. What can you do with a degree in anthropology? You can become anything from a museum curator to a professional translator. This article takes a closer look at the subject of anthropology as well as higher education facilities that offer degree programs in anthropology and what sorts of jobs you can get once you earn a degree in anthropology.

Types of Anthropology

People studying anthropology examine human behavioral patterns and survival methods in addition to human relations around the world. Students majoring anthropology can focus their studies on specific geographic locations in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of past and present cultures and diversity in those areas. They may also choose to concentrate on one or more of the five main types of anthropology briefly described below.

Archaeology – study of material objects and environmental conditions in order to draw conclusions on past human activity and culture; objects may be obtained from thousands of years ago or merely decades past

Biological anthropology – study of evolution of humanity, including behavioral habits and survival tactics as well as biological aspects; may also incorporate the comparison of humans vs primates

Linguistic anthropology – study of how humans communicate with one another individually and on larger scales, including in-depth analysis of language

Sociocultural anthropology – study of various cultures, noting similarities and differences within a society and in comparison to other human societies; may focus on diverse topics such as nationality, sexuality, and gender

Applied anthropology – application of theories and methods of research and observation from one or more type(s) of anthropology to social issues as means to address and resolve these issues within societies; used at law firms, government agencies, medical schools, and more in order to benefit communities

How to Get an Anthropology Degree

If you are interested in exploring anthropology in college and you are still in high school, there are a few general courses that may help prepare you for college programs in anthropology. Studying world history and a foreign language in high school can enhance your knowledge of past civilizations, instilling some background knowledge that may be helpful during your journey through learning the ins and outs of anthropology.

If you wish to pursue a future in anthropology, you should also consider a summer camp or field school—like Crow Canyon Archaeological Center located in southwest Colorado—to improve your knowledge of topics related to anthropology before jumping into your post-secondary education. Also, when applying to colleges and universities, be sure you focus on the quality of and educational opportunities provided by various college and university anthropology departments in order to choose a school that you feel will best prepare you for your future career goals.

The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693 and located in Williamsburg, VA, is the second oldest college in America and home to an anthropology department unlike any other. With its intense focus on anthropological aspects of Colonial Williamsburg in addition to history, music, and American studies, there’s no denying both undergraduate and graduate students will receive top-of-the-line educations to set them apart from all other job applicants in various fields. The program requirements have students delve into each of the four main types of anthropology, preparing them for a wide range of occupations that analyze past and present human behavior. Graduate students can earn a Master of Arts in Historical Anthropology or Historical Archaeology or a doctoral degree in either historical anthropology or historical archaeology. The college also has an anthropology club that all students are welcome to join.

The University of Washington’s Department of Anthropology provides excellent undergraduate and graduate programs in the subject. With high-end research facilities and equipment, students at the University of Washington in Seattle gain valuable experience for real-life applications upon graduating with a degree in anthropology. The undergraduate program allows students to choose options that coincide with the anthropology bachelors degree, including subjects that cover anthropological approaches to globalization, health, and science. Graduate students can earn doctoral degrees in archaeology, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology. The Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington also offers students particular writing services and reference materials at its unique Anthropology Writing Center.

East Carolina University offers its students outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs in anthropology that educate students on evolution theories and studies and how they can be studied through subjects like archaeology, biology, and cultural studies. The department openly encourages students to gain experience in research facilities on campus by working side by side with faculty on research projects. Undergraduate students can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology or may choose anthropology as a minor if they prefer to earn a bachelors degree in another subject. Students earning a bachelors degree in anthropology are also encouraged to become certified in either Forensic Anthropology or Cultural Resources Management in order to advance their career options upon graduating. Graduate students earning a Master of Arts in Anthropology can focus their studies in everything from primate studies to medical anthropology to religious studies.

Careers in Anthropology

Before you graduate from a higher education facility with a degree in anthropology, it is important that you familiarize yourself with various career paths in the field in order focus your studies around your career of choice. This section contains a variety of careers in the field of anthropology.

Many career opportunities are available within the cultural resource management industry, especially. The cultural resource management industry focuses on the preservation of grounds and artifacts of past societies in order to make new discoveries and ultimately improve education in all subjects. It is also often an ideal industry for individuals who possess bachelor degrees in subjects relevant to cultural preservation and protection, including but not limited to anthropology, architecture, and history. For example, government agencies and other companies may hire archaeologists and museum curators to contribute to the discovery, care, and safeguard of historical sites and artifacts

Entry Level Careers in Anthropology

Upon earning a bachelors degree in anthropology with various levels of research experience, you may qualify for one or more of the positions briefly described here.

Fundraiser

Fundraisers spend much of their time devoted to developing ideas on ways to raise money for their organizations. They not only create and implement events to collect donations and promote awareness of the purposes of their organizations, but they also often oversee volunteers and provide them with training necessary to assist in the fundraising process. Fundraisers are highly organized, as they need to keep strict records on past donors and potential donors for future use. They also have particularly good verbal communication skills. A fundraiser typically possesses background knowledge in communications and business and a bachelors degree in any of a wide variety of subjects. Linguistic anthropology and applied anthropology can prove useful in order to know how to best appeal to a targeted audience.

Fundraisers may earn over $30,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

Cultural Affairs Specialist

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Cultural affairs specialists focus on creating plans for and carrying out various cultural events and programs to promote community activities and provide education about specific cultures. They may also work with schools, community organizations, and libraries to plan and host the events and programs. Cultural affairs specialists often aid in the development of grant applications and may work alongside fundraisers. A bachelors degree is usually required to become a cultural affairs specialist, as is background knowledge in a specific culture. A cultural affairs specialist has a creative mindset and a passion for cultural arts as well as outstanding written and verbal communication skills.

Cultural affairs specialists may earn around $35,000 a year for their services, based on education and experience levels.

Advanced Careers in Anthropology

After earning a higher degree, such as a masters or doctoral degree in anthropology or more specific field, and with extensive research experience you will most likely qualify for one or more of the occupations touched on in this area.

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors research the probability of patients or their family members inheriting health issues or genetic disorders, such as birth defects, based on family histories and other tests. Genetic counselors may present their results to other doctors or to patients directly. Genetic counselors may meet with patients to discuss the risks of the procedures and potential treatment plans if a patient or family member of the patient is diagnosed with a genetic disorder. A genetic counselor possesses at least a masters degree in genetics or related field, but many counselors hold doctoral degrees. Background knowledge in anthropology can be helpful in this field, as well, and they are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.

Genetic counselors may earn around $55,000 annually, based on education, certification, and experience levels.

Cultural Anthropologist

Cultural anthropologists specialize in the study of past and present practices of human cultures in order to better understand developments and changes in human societies in specific regions over long periods of time. A cultural anthropologist may focus his or her time determining how civilizations originally formed or may specialize in the progression of customs within a certain culture. They usually possess at least a masters degree in anthropology, perhaps with a strong focus on history of specific geographic locations, and the ability to work together in teams for further research.

Cultural anthropologists may earn around $56,000 a year, based on education and experience levels in addition to their specific concentrations.

Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic anthropologists help interpret evidence for law enforcement teams. They spend much of their time in the field observing evidence in its original location and in laboratories examining evidence. Most of the evidence they examine consists of skeletal remains, typically of humans. They are also often asked to assist with transporting remains and even sometimes performing dental analysis on the victims for identification purposes. Conclusions drawn from evidence examination include the age, sex, and condition of the body at the time of death. Forensic anthropologists possess a bachelors degree in anthropology with a minor in forensics as well as a masters degree in anthropology. Doctoral degrees are even more beneficial for those looking for a career in forensic anthropology. Characteristics of these anthropologists include the ability to pay close attention to detail and background knowledge in forensic science.

Forensic anthropologists can earn over $60,000 annually, based on job duties and education level.

Museum Curator

Museum curators are responsible for everything from assisting in the arrangement of museum tours to choosing specific artifacts for purchase by and display within museums. Experience in the study of anthropology is incredibly beneficial, as a museum curator often also decides how to categorize and display artifacts within the museum to best portray artificial representations of past civilizations around the world. Museum curators possess degrees in subjects such as history and anthropology and often advanced degrees, such as masters degrees or doctoral degrees, in related fields. Excellent communication is one of the top traits for a museum curator, because he or she is responsible for negotiating deals with sellers and in some cases even giving presentations to visiting academic groups.

More advanced and experienced museum curators can earn over $80,000 a year, while it is not uncommon for many to make under $60,000.

Companies that Hire People with Anthropology Degrees

Nonprofit organizations and companies around the world are constantly searching for people with anthropology degrees, especially within the cultural resource management industry. Below is a brief list of examples to jump start your career search in jobs for people with anthropology degrees.

Epsilon – various locations around the world; helps clients market their brands across the globe to build clientele and boost sales; hires positions for social anthropologists, applied anthropologists, research analysts, statisticians, etc.

Geometry Global – locations in 56 countries; world’s largest activation network, analyzing data to understand behavior and, ultimately, customer desires; hires positions for strategic planners, account executives, SEO managers, etc.

Alelo – headquarters in Los Angeles, CA; creates interactive technology as educational materials for military use, etc.; hires positions for linguists, anthropologists, translators, development leaders, etc.

EcoHealth Alliance – international organization focusing on the conservation of biodiversity; hires positions for anthropologists, epidemiologists, social scientists, etc.

The field of anthropology is certainly not shrinking, as our curiosity of the past is ever-growing. So many companies and organizations and even some government agencies are constantly in search of talented individuals with knowledge in past and present human behavior and culture. Earning a degree in anthropology just may be the best way to land the job of your dreams. Do you have what it takes to make the next great historical discovery?

Author: Rose Boettinger

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  • Aaron

    Couple of suggestions here. To begin with, no Anthropologist would ever say they study the human “race.” Anthropology is the study of humanity – the past, present, and future of human societies, how we communicate and interact with one another and with our environment, and our bodies and behaviors. Also, I’ve never heard of a “Physical Anthropologist” as an an entry level job title, and frankly the job you describe here doesn’t exist. Maybe there are BA-level anthropology graduates working as Research Assistants to academic, PhD-level Physical Anthropologists. Generally that title is reserved for PhD level academics. Maybe you could go with “Crime scene investigator” instead. Also, in more than a decade of professional Anthropology work I’ve never met a single “text translator” who only had a BA degree, and certainly not at 40K/year salary. You also need to include information on the Cultural Resource Management industry, which provides the majority of BA-level archaeology jobs in the country. Also see: http://archaeology.about.com/od/questionoftheweek/qt/faq13.htm

    • Thank you for your suggestions, Aaron. I have made quite a few changes based on them.

  • There are some great resources that intersect this webpage exploration of the anthro world and worldview: (1) see the poster ‘word cloud’ of jobs for those you took anthro degrees, http://anthroview.blogspot.com/2010/02/jobs-to-get-with-anthro-training.html and (2) careers overview page at the American Anthropological Assoc, http://www.aaanet.org/profdev/careers/ including (3) their project “this is anthropology,” http://www.thisisanthropology.org/ and the deep and wide project by the British side, the Royal Anthropological Institute, Discover Anthropology, http://www.discoveranthropology.org.uk/, including the annual “London Anthropology Day” (a sort of teach-in plus university recruiting fair all in one), http://www.londonanthropologyday.co.uk/

    • Thanks so much for your feedback, GP Witteveen! Thanks to your links, I was able to add some careers that may be better suited than those originally posted. It’s always good to receive constructive criticism.

  • Jennifer Alvarado

    Posted on behalf of Dr. Alice Gorman
    The degree structures and the cultural resource management industry in Australia are very different. We follow the British system, where archaeology and anthropology are different disciplines, taught in separate departments. For both anthropologists and archaeologists, however, the main field of employment is cultural resource management (In Australia this term is not used; it is cultural heritage management or CHM). I think you do need to have a section on that. I’d also add that Archaeological Anthropology is not a term I have seen used anywhere, although there is a strand of archaeology which some call Anthropological Archaeology.

  • Pablo Gustavo Rodriguez

    With an anthropology degree you can do most things. Not do everything but work in almos any field. This is for two reasons: 1) Anthropology is so broad in its approach to the human phenomenon that it is involved erverywhe humans are present. From a biological, historical, social, philosophical point o view. It has to do with technology, business, organizations, design, environment, social development, health, education, housing, climate change, etc., etc. etc. 2) because now degrees DON´T MATTER. Nobody cares What is your degree. It matters what can you do with your education. And every important field is interdesciplinary.
    So, if you already have a degree in anthopology don´t listen to thar people that say you loosed you time, that you will be unemployed or underpaid. So happens also with physicians or engenneers. And there are anthropologists that earn high income. And if you are choosing a degree, dont worry. Choose anyone that seems attractive to you based on the subjects it includes. Forget about income and employment. Study what you like. Latter you will find the way to earn money with it.

    If you want to know, I work for govenment at the Ministry of Social Development in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, since 1995. Now my job is help City Halls and civil society organizations to promote productive entrepreneurship among unemployed workers. Some years ago my job in the same Agency was to asses a nutritional and health program for the poor mothers and their offspring. besides I teach social research methodology for undergraduate anthropology majors, and I myself do social research, and have a PhD in Social Sciences. But in the Ministry I work closely with economists, lawyers, social workers, history professors, administrative science professional, etc. And we all do almost the same job.

  • Nathan Dawthorne

    Coming to the end of my undergraduate years with an Honors Specialization in Anthropology (with a heavy emphasis on the Sociocultural) here in Southwestern Ontario (Canada), I quickly came to the realization that any immediate job available in the region would be either looking for a general BA or focussed in archaeology. As I had primarily pursued my degree based on what interested me, learning for the sake of learning, I hadn’t focussed on job prospects. Being a mature married student, I also wasn’t as concerned about paying of my student government loans.

    I decided, alongside some advice from some trusted professors, to pursue a MA in Sociocultural Anthropology, focusing on a need I saw in my local community and silence in the media – the gendered and politicized world of sex work – more specifically Male Sex Work. After a year of class work and a summer of fieldwork, conducting interviews with men who sell “intimate” services (to men and women) listening to their stories, we quickly realized fast tracking to a PhD was in order due to the extent and diversity of what I found. As I grow my career, getting experience (and funding) through teaching assistantships there is a general trajectory for where my work is leading me and job prospects. With program cutbacks in academic Anthropology the likelihood of finding tenured professorship is unrealistic especially if I am unwilling (or unable) to travel – but its a possibility. Due to the nature of my research however, and an ethical obligation to give back to the people I am working with – without whose stories, I wouldn’t have a dissertation – I am giving serious thought to creating, expanding, or lobbying for a support organization that doesn’t exist locally… effectively creating my own job (and more research opportunities). To give back in this way, in a society that requires credentials, I will need a PhD.

    As the boundaries between the social sciences keep blurring, and methods are borrowed from each other (ex: ethnography, reflexivity) some may ask what a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology can do, that a PhD in another field couldn’t. My definition of anthropology is a careful attention to the embeddedness and complexity of lived lives, the micro and macro processes at work, listening and recording different and conflicting points of view and stories, and posing questions at the boundaries.

    • Jennifer Alvarado

      Nathan, that is quite a journey you have been on. I would love to hear more about what you create for the future. I just wanted to make a quick reply to something that you said in the beginning, “As I had primarily pursued my degree based on what interested me, learning for the sake of learning, I hadn’t focused on job prospects.” Although my first degree was in a different field (environmental studies), I had a similar experience in that I also pursued what I was interested in rather than what was practical. I also ended up going back to further my education. The main point being that, while you want to follow your interests, you’ve got to look ahead. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Prabu Nusantara

    In my home country Indonesia, anthropology is not a popular subject or major at all (I believe we have same situation in other side of the world), yeah I was not listen to my parent or friends back then when every time I asked for opinion I always get the same boring answer that I will not make money if I studied infamous subject like anthropology . Back then at the last year in high school I did little research to find out what is this anthropology thingy… mhh compare it with some other subject, I found it really interesting especially for people with ADD like me I want to study something I really like, a subject that can makes me stay inside the class instead of boring subject that can make me end up changing major every year or even worst – drop out from university.

    I honestly did not really thinking about what kind of job or career I’m gonna have in the future with this anthropology, I study anthro because it is interesting, I think anthropologist skills is HIGHLY RELEVANT to most of of the industry nowadays. The thing is … when an anthropology fresh graduate finish their study instead of looking for an “Anthropologist Job” they should looking for job that need anthropological skills because opportunities is wide open in front of you.
    I studied anthropology in Indonesia, currently I’m working for one of the largest marketing and research consultancy firm in Asia called Acorn as senior research executive.

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